Monte Carlo is synonymous with the highest stakes, the richest talents and the most dramatic occasions. And tonight, on the Triton Series first visit to this unique principality, two of modern poker’s most formidable young talents went to battle in a contest that perfectly suited this most breathtaking location.
Barely anything could separate Matthias Eibinger from Adrian Mateos as the pair played heads-up for the Triton Main Event title in the stunning Salle des Etoiles, with close to $4 million originally reserved for the winner.
But after the buffeting of a cold deck took much of the skill out of their two exceptionally skilful games, they opted to arrange a heads up deal, leaving the trophy and the title (plus $100K) to play for. Soon after, there was one last cooler and Eibinger took the spoils.
Eibinger won $3,461,261, plus a Jacob & Co timepiece, offered only to winners of main events on the Triton Series. Luxury brand Bombay also gave a two-day stay for him and up to five friends on the exclusive Bombay yacht.
The good times roll when you’re a champion on the Triton Series.
This was a brilliant performance from the 30-year-old Austrian, who had to overhaul Mateos’ enormous chip lead coming into the day, as well as survive past seven other fearsome competitors. Eibinger probably had the rub of the green in the heads up portion, but he honed his game in hyper turbo sit n goes online, which presents players with precisely these kinds of situations.
And, once again, Eibinger passed every test with flying colours.
“The feeling is just amazing,” Eibinger told Marianela Pereyra, on the Triton live stream. “It’s by far the biggest cash I’ve ever had. I’ve won two turbos and now I’ve won a main event. I’m just so happy.”
When pressed on how he managed to keep his composure facing Mateos’ stack, plus the rapidly escalating blinds, Eibinger said he loved it.
“It was an awkward spot but I really liked it,” he said. “The shorter I go, the more I enjoyed it. I’ve played 40K hyper turbo sit n goes online, so I have a bit of experience.”
He added that he felt “a little bit of nervousness here and there” but, having hidden it successfully, it was time to party. “Now it is just happiness,” he said.
As for Mateos, he added another $3,120,739 to his coffers. It’s maybe one that got away, but there was no accounting for the cards coming out as they did.
The Main Event began on only the third day of the Monte Carlo festival, but true to form the room quickly filled. By the time registration was closed, there was $16.875 million in the prize pool, courtesy of 135 entries.
The bubble was due when 24 players were left, spread across three tables, and stars such as Artur Martirosian, Webster Lim and Stephen Chidwick perished shortly before the cash desk opened.
The unluckiest player of all was Ren Lin, who took up against Richard Yong’s , but lost when the Triton co-founder turned a straight.
Lin was knocked out with nothing, while everyone else was now guaranteed $198,000 at least.
The next target was the final table, but all of Christoph Vogelsang, Tim Adams, Jason Koon, Sam Greenwood and Daniel Dvoress were among those who couldn’t make it. They cashed, but their hopes of a win petered out on the penultimate day.
Through all the carnage, the player who had started the day in the chip lead only consolidated his position there. Spain’s Adrian Mateos absolutely crushed it all day and took an enormous stack to the final.
Adrian Mateos — 125 BBs
Chris Brewer — 32 BBs
Nick Petrangelo — 30 BBs
Matthias Eibinger — 28 BBs
Quan Zhou — 28 BBs
Aleks Ponakovs — 27 BBs
Justin Bonomo — 27 BBs
Santhosh Suvarna — 24 BBs
Ken Tong — 19 BBs
With such an overwhelming chip lead — nearly a third of the chips in play — it seemed like this was Mateos’ tournament to lose. He had the chance to steamroll through the field, but was also keenly aware that this wasn’t a done deal just yet.
So it was that the nine of them played mostly small pots for the first hour, with little significant chip moves. Aleks Ponakovs dipped to the lowest stack, then doubled back through Nick Petrangelo. And that then left Petrangelo short and at risk.
Petrangelo found pocket tens and, after opening the pot, faced a three-bet shove from Ken Tong’s covering stack. Petrangelo called it off and was flipping against Tong’s . An ace on the flop and river won the pot for Tong and ended Petrangelo’s tournament.
His ninth place was worth $391,000.
Everybody bar Mateos was still relatively short-stacked, but he found poker’s new powerhouse hand and, after raising, called Mateos’ three-bet jam. Mateos had a real hand too — — and it made broadway.
That sent Bonomo out in eighth, banking $491,000. It wasn’t quite enough for him to retake the top spot in poker’s all-time money list, but who is going to be upset at another half million.
The pattern continued. Chips were shared around the short stacks, while waiting for the dealer to put a set-up into their hands. It happened when action folded around to Ponakovs in the small blind, who also had the smallest stack. Ponakovs had and jammed. Unfortunately for him, Chris Brewer was in the big blind with and made the call.
The board was entirely blank and Brewer’s hand stayed best. Ponakovs was knocked out in seventh for $668,000.
The stack sizes still suggested that this could quite easily get done in a hurry. And not long after, Brewer claimed another scalp when Ken Tong open-jammed with and Brewer called with .
Tong couldn’t survive this coup, but departed with $902,000 as a very happy man. He only decided to come to Monte Carlo the day before the event started, following his friend Elton Tsang to the Mediterranean. A purely recreational player, he made a last-gasp decision to play this main event. And he picked up nearly a million.
Another first timer at the Triton Series, although not quite such a poker rookie per se, Quan Zhou was also enjoying his time in Monte Carlo. The Chinese player had landed at the final table and guaranteed a first seven-figure tournament score by sticking around until the last five.
But Zhou’s stack had dwindled until he was all-in in the big blind. Both Eibinger and Mateos saw a flop with him, but Eibinger got out of the way post-flop and allowed Mateos, with pocket tens, to beat Zhou’s on a dry board.
Zhou, who came to the final dressed in an immaculate white suit, shirt and tie, made a dignified exit and picked up $1,165,000.
Although Brewer had picked up a couple of knockouts from this final table, they had only been of fellow short stacks and he had never really managed to threaten Mateos. Santhosh Suvarna and Eibinger had also moved ahead of Brewer in the counts, which left the American vulnerable if either of those got involved with him too.
And it was Suvarna who ended up accounting for Brewer. Suvarna opened with pocket eights and Brewer three-bet with . Brewer jammed and Suvarna called, and this time the pocket pair held up.
Brewer has won two Triton titles over the past year or so, but this time he could go no further. Fourth place was worth $1,450,000, and this trip to Monte Carlo is far from over yet.
Mateos remained seemingly imperious, but he would have been keenly aware that any double up for either of his two opponents could put them into the lead. And Eibinger managed to find precisely that to leapfrog Mateos.
Eibinger had in the small blind and opted to call only, with Mateos behind in the big blind. Mateos fell into the trap and moved all-in, sitting with . Eibinger called and he faded the outs that could have punished him.
With that, the Austrian was in the chip lead and Mateos, for the first time in three days, was technically now under threat.
But Mateos has made a habit during his relatively short career of finding the right cards at precisely the right time. And his elimination of Suvarna in the next major coup was pretty spectacular.
This one is best to read about without knowing the cards. Suvarna opened his button with a standard min-plus raise. Mateos called from the big blind. They then saw the flop and Mateos check-called Suvarna’s continuation bet.
The came on the turn and Mateos checked again. Suvarna bet and then Mateos shoved with the covering stack.
Suvarna called and the hands were revealed. Suvarna had for top pair and the nut flush draw. Mateos, however, had for a pair of eights, a straight draw and a flush draw.
And, boom, the river was the .
Suvarna’s fist pump suggested he thought he had won this one. He had the ace high flush, so it’s entirely forgivable. But Mateos celebrated too because that particular card gave him the straight flush, and it was enough to oust Suvarna.
The Indian businessman’s love affair with Triton continued with a $1,772,000 payday — albeit with a pretty gross elimination story.
The two top pros now settled in for what could easily turn in to a long battle. Mateos had retaken the chip lead with 62 big blinds to Eibinger’s 51. But those were two sizeable stacks still, and these two players were never going to give it up without either a fight or a cooler.
This, as you’d hope for a tournament of this magnitude, was a heads-up battle for the ages. Eibinger won all the early pots, then Mateos battled back into the lead when he got paid the maximum with a king high flush.
Mateos added some more when pocket aces became a set, but Eibinger doubled back with against , the better jack holding, then doubled once more with beating , the inferior jack turning a straight.
When Eibinger doubled yet again, this time with pocket sevens against Mateos’s flopped flush draw (it missed), the Austrian took a narrow lead again.
Mateos had to get back to work, and he went on another surge into the lead. However, when they got their chips in pre-flop yet again, Eibinger found another double. This time, his defeated Mateos’ .
Once more, Eibinger was the leader.
There was now only 40 blinds between them, so they were scrapping. It played to Eibinger’s strengths, however. He’s a former hyper turbo online sit n go player, where short-stack, short-handed play is what it’s all about. He managed to extend his lead to the point that Mateos was all in for a sub 10-big blind stack. Lo and behold, Mateos doubled up too, winning with against .
This turned out to be the breaking point. They’d seen enough and decided to strike that deal.
Very soon after, Eibinger found and Mateos black pocket tens, the kind of hand that would have put the chips in the middle at any stage. The dealer put a king on the flop, but there were three clubs out there by the turn. However, Eibinger faded the outs on the river and was champion.
Mateos was the first to congratulate him, and he becomes a three-time Triton Series champion.
Event #3 – $125,000 NLH – Main Event
Dates: October 26-28, 2023
Entries: 135 (inc. 47 re-entries)
Prize pool: $16,875,000
1 – Matthias Eibinger, Austria – $3,461,261*
2 – Adrian Mateos – $3,120,739*
3 – Santhosh Suvarna, India – $1,772,000
4 – Chris Brewer, USA – $1,450,000
5 – Quan Zhou, China – $1,165,000
6 – Ken Tong, Hong Kong – $902,000
7 – Aleks Ponakovs, Latvia – $668,000
8 – Justin Bonomo, USA – $491,000
9 – Nick Petrangelo, USA – $391,000
10 – Daniel Dvoress, Canada – $329,000
11 – Lewis Spencer, UK – $329,000
12 – Richard Yong, Malaysia – $286,000
13 – Isaac Haxton, USA – $273,500
14 – Leon Sturm, Germany – $273,500
15 – Sam Greenwood, Canada – $261,000
16 – Leonard Maue, Germany – $236,000
17 – Jason Koon, USA – $236,000
18 – Orpen Kisacikoglu, Turkey – $212,000
19 – Nacho Barbero, Argentina – $212,000
20 – Tim Adams, Canada – $212,000
21 – Christoph Vogelsang, Germany – $198,000
22 – Jans Arends, Netherlands – $198,000
23 – Bruno Volkmann, Brazil – $198,000
Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive